Year for the Planet Week 27: Sustainable Eating for Mental Health

Before you can fix the world, you have to fix yourself. Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.


A confession: I’m feeling a little burned out this week. Residencies and exhibitions always take a physical and emotional toll on me—I’ve been feeling really drained. And this, I believe is a reason for overeating, eating crap, eating mindlessly, and eating destructively for the planet.

On some of the trips, I would scarf down the tasteless white bread wrapped in plastic they offered on the plane, and would even eat meat when I didn’t really feel like it. I still had enough presence of mind to refuse beef, but because of all the disgusting things I ate in transit, my face broke out in a constellation of adult acne that no facial in the world could remove.

Being with my friends in Barcelona after a Ugandan safari was a lifesaver, especially since they’re into better eating habits, too—way more than I am at this point. Eve found out years ago that she has some food intolerances and overhauled her diet, and so we had pretty healthy things to eat every day. This made me feel better after all the Ugandan potatoes I had, which were lovely but heavy and made my body so inflamed.

Sustainable eating in Barcelona has always been possible, but alas, after seven years of not being there, I was dismayed to confirm how gentrified it has been. Stores for cold-pressed juices and gluten-free everything dotted Barrio Gotico. For brunch one day, we went to a hipster “flexitarian” restaurant with lines of people that reminded me of brunch in the East Village on a Sunday. Annoyed as I was at their wifi password of “kalechips”, I also admit that the food was really good—just out of reach for people who could not afford it.

I write this in Manila, posting on the blog late but that’s because I was dead in bed for two days straight—it was just difficult to move after all the miles I flew and all the emotions, both good and bad, that I went through. I got through joy at seeing some of my best friends, sadness of losing a competition that could have meant being with them a bit more, stress at getting an exhibition done, glee at facing wild animals in a safari, and excitement at meeting new people and learning so many different things, and trepidation at potentially facing a warthog at night in camp who might smell my aromatherapy oils and attack my tent. And such a broad spectrum will make you want to eat everything in your path unless you’re careful.

Some thing I learned after another hard month of travel:
1. It’s great to be prepared but better to be over prepared. I wish I had made more protein bites. It would have been better to have them on the long way back home,
2. Eat local. I learned a lot about organic eating the Barcelona way. I miss how they do salads and seafood, the latter fresh from the port a few minutes’ walk away from Born where my friend Juli took me.
3. Bring fruit to the airport for a snack. I had a panic attack and was crying uncontrollably before I departed Barcelona—poor Eve, who had to endure it all! After composing myself in half an hour, I sat down and glumly ate a small box of fresh blueberries I bought in an organic market, and I felt tons better. Fresh food is always a mood booster.

The past three weeks of traveling confirmed to me that I need to eat better. Never mind the planet—my mental health needs it! Now, I’m preparing to go on an arts immersion program in the Amazon rainforest—yet another set of challenges. Onwards and upwards… after I make more protein bites.


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